Monday, March 10, 2014

Validating Reading Choices

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There are a lot of titles I don’t post on my Goodreads shelf. I will read anything…mysteries, science fiction, fantasy, depends on my mood, on the time I have to invest in a book, and why I am reading. But some of the titles I don’t share, simply because I don’t want to admit that I read something that is not purposeful or that I fear someone else might judge me for reading. When I talk books with my high school librarian, she is self-deprecating when she admits her addiction to vampire romance novels. 

Many of my students are no different when I ask them to talk about what they are reading. I usually try to start my remedial classes off with sharing what I've been reading, and asking the kids to share back. I have students who very rarely share, and most of them are girls. They don’t like to say out loud that they are reading Dork Diaries, while the boys can’t wait to tell me that they are reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Thankfully in my Pre-AP class, which has an even ratio of three girls to every one boy, the girls are not shy about reading and sharing. They pass Nicholas Sparks and Jodi Picoult around proudly. They read Vampire Academy and The Chronicles of Valdimir Tod without fear that someone will tell them that vampire fiction isn't “real reading.” They blog about what they read with passion and personal connection.

So what about the girls in the other classes? When did we create an educational culture that judges girls on what they read, but not boys? When we talk about students in our student success meetings, we focus a lot of time on boy and their data and behavior. We seem to expect girls to be better behaved than boys, and lose patience when they don’t conform. We expect girls to be better writers, better readers, and to read what we hand them without complaint, while we make sure everything we ask them to read is relevant to the boys. Middle school girls are hard to handle. They are trying to find their place in social structures that are unforgiving of mistakes and where everyone is judging everyone else. And their teachers aren't helping when it comes to giving them the freedom to read what they chose and validating those choices.

All reading has value. If we want our students to value reading, we have to validate ALL of their reading choices, not just the ones we approve of or would read ourselves. Should we be guiding our students to challenge themselves, try something new, expand their horizons? Absolutely. But if the point of reading is to have students connect to the world around them, who are we to judge what and how they choose to make those connections when given freedom to choose?


  1. Melanie, So right there with you. I read a lot of stuff that I don't post, or hesitate to post. For instance, I read Christian books. Just finished A THOUSAND GIFTS, which I loved, but I know a lot of people would find it offensive. And I read mysteries by Lisa Scottoline, which are total junk reads, and also PEOPLE magazine, if I happen to get my hands on a copy. I don't consider those any less legitimate read than THE BOOK THIEF, which I am struggling to get through for book clubs. I wonder, then, why we are not willing to offer kids that same rich and varied reading

  2. I agree that we judge. I too, though when choosing to share a book always seem to try to please the boys in the audience....thinking that they won't be able to take it, if I choose a book that has 'girl' appeal.

  3. I so agree with your point that we need to be more accepting of readers' choice and more encouraging about reading whatever we want. Besdies, if a book doesn't grab a reader, they may hold it in their hand but they aren't going to finish it. Variety in reading must be the norm!

  4. Great post! I so agree with you all. I didn't post all my books last year on goodreads, but I am doing a better job of it this year. I have a wide range of tastes. It really depends on my mood, the amount of time I have and if I am checking out genres or ideas or just want a change.